Lake Aanaar - The changing nature of an Arctic lake

Few observations of lake Aanaar

Boat on the lake. Lake Aanaar is the biggest lake above Arctic Circle and the third biggest lake in Finland. (Photo: Outi Paadar)Boat on the lake. Lake Aanaar is the biggest lake above Arctic Circle and the third biggest lake in Finland. (Photo: Outi Paadar)The meaning of Lake Aanaar has been - and still - is significant to local people in the region. It is the best and richest fishing lake in the area and in the olden times the riches of Lake Aanaar secured livelihoods for many families living around it. It has been said that Lake Aanaar is the sea to Aanaar Sámi people.

The lake and the village with fewer than 1000 inhabitants carrying the same name are located about 330 kilometres up north from Arctic Circle in the county of Lapland and in the municipality of Aanaar. My home place is lake Ijjävri (also known as lake Idjajávri in Northern Sámi language, Iijäuˊrr in Skolt Sámi language and Iijärvi in Finnish). Lake Ijjävri is north from Lake Aanaar. From Aanaar village to the capital city Helsinki is about 1 100 kilometres. The borders of Russia and Norway are only 150 kilometres away, and the Barents Sea about 200 kilometres.

I have been a professional fisherman for six years but nowadays I fish for personal consumption for my family. I am a 62 years old Sámi man and I have been living in the Aanaar area all my life, just like my father and grandfather. During my life I have had the chance to fish, keep track of and observe the fishing in Lake Aanaar and other lakes in the Aanaar area. I have learned to know the lakes, lands and landscapes: I have been fishing with my father, grandfather, other relatives, neighbours and friends. I have heard much from them; stories on what happened there and then, who was there and who did what, on which side of lake or a valley. Most of the stories are funny and amusing events on what happened to us on the lake. Sometimes I have even created my own stories of the events that have happened to me on my fishing trips. For us locally, it is considered important to be a part of the events: to be there in person.

Many island of the lake. Lake Aanaar is also known as Aanaarjävri, in Aanaar Sámi language, Anárjávri in Northern Sámi language, Aanarjäu'rr in Skolt Sámi language and Inarijärvi in Finnish. (Photo: Outi Paadar)Many island of the lake. Lake Aanaar is also known as Aanaarjävri, in Aanaar Sámi language, Anárjávri in Northern Sámi language, Aanarjäu'rr in Skolt Sámi language and Inarijärvi in Finnish. (Photo: Outi Paadar)We fish year around for our own consumption. We catch usually white fish (Coregonus lavaretus), trouts (Salmo trutta), Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), graylings (Thymallus thymallus), pikes (Esox lucius) and burbots (Lota lota). We also catch perches (Perca fliuviatilis). Year round we fish white fish, in the autumn specially trouts. In the summer time we fish mainly with nets and sometimes we fish with dragnet (or seiners fishing). In the winter time, we fish the lakes traditionally with under-ice nets. The main fishing methods are traditional, which I have learned from my father and grandfather. When the fishing nets get torn apart I usually fix the net myself like my grandfather taught me. In addition to the traditional way of fishing I have learned more efficient ways to fish, but I prefer the traditional ways because they suit our lakes best.

Lake Aanaar covers 1043 square kilometres and it has over 3000 islands. It is about 80 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide and the deepest spot is over 90 metres. Most of the place names are in the Aanaar Sámi language but over time the place names have been translated or transformed into Northern Sámi and/or Finnish. Lake Aanaar has pure and clear water – so pure you can drink the water without boiling it first. Lake Aanaar empties its water thorough river Paččvei (also known as Paččjokk in Skolt Sámi, Paatsjoki in Finnish) which flows north towards Norway to the Barents Sea. Lake Aanaar is a regulated by a hydroelectric power plant. The power plant was built in 1942, just across the border in Russia.

Compared to its natural state, the nature and nutrition of Lake Aanaar has changed because of this regulation. For example, the fish stocks have changed and the water level of the lake has changed a lot. causing a variety of damage. Sometimes the water level seems to sink so low that the bottom of the lake starts to show and it looks like someone has pulled the plug.

In 1980s, the water level of Lake Aanaar changed even more than it does today. Back then the water level could shift about two metres. The shifts on the water level caused changes to the river banks and some of the fish species. For example, in 1980s in autumn during the fish spawning time many of the local inhabitants could notice what happened to the fish spawn. Some of the Arctic char, trout and white fish spawn in the autumn quite close to river banks. The water sank too low and the fish spawn closest to the river banks were left dry on the banks. In addition, during the winter when the ice cover of the lake got thicker some of the spawn simply got stuck under the ice and drowned. Luckily all the fish don't spawn that close to the river banks. Today the water level of Lake Aanaar is somewhat more stabilized and shifts aren't that big. To compensate the damages to the fish stocks caused by regulation, the government of Finland decided to start planting fish in the late 1970s. The Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute (RKTL) is responsible for this management.

The water level shifts in Lake Aanaar caused other damages as well. The local people living near the lake noticed changes in the banks of the lake. When the water level of the lake rose the flood caused erosion so that in some parts of the Aanaar the banks and cliffs of the lake collapsed. Also,during floods, the locals could observe changes in their own back yards: Some families in the neighbourhoods experienced, for example, that the firewood for the winter was floating in the lake instead of being dry on the bank. Since then the banks of Lake Aanaar have been supported. Today if you are going by boat on the lake, you can see that the banks and islands are supported by extra layer of rocks.

Compared to past couple summers this summer was very good for fishermen: the summer was long and warm so fishing on Lake Aanaar has been good. Still, I think that there should be more fishing in Lake Aanaar because I have noticed that at least the white fish are getting smaller and smaller. By increasing the catch quotas the white fish would became bigger, I believe.

Today I am waiting my retirement days as a producer. My hope is that Lake Aanaar remains as pure and clean as it is today for generations to come. My children fish these same lakes and rivers, and I hope that their children will be able to fish the same way we have: to know the lakes, surrounding valleys and mountains and know the very best places to fish and ways to catch the fish. The Aanaar village is my home and lakes of this area are our fishing places. This area has lots of adventures and stories. This is part of our history.

Veikko Aikio (Gádjá Jusse Veikko)
producer, fisherman



0 #1 Johanna 2013-10-09 20:06
In the arctic regions humans must understand nature to survive - we should respect the know-how of the people living there.

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